Goodbye Cows is a documentary that invites us to think about what the world would be like and what would happen to rurality in 15 years if today we end up with livestock, based on the Spanish reality.
Researchers, scientists and experts from Spanish and European universities talk about what the future would be like if we stopped raising cows, but they also tell us why there is so much interest in this happening.
At the beginning of this century they are presenting us to cows as destructive animals for the planet, they emit GHGs, they consume food that is in competition with our diet, they occupy a lot of land, they need a lot of water. They have managed to create an immense division between foods of animal origin and those of plant origin, as if they did not form all fundamental parts of a nutritional system, which provide us with the necessary balance for the formation and maintenance of body and mind, and of our culture since time immemorial.
They are “truths” shouting that… they are nothing more than lies, or worse, “science” rigged for the manipulation of the nobility of people.
There is no real spontaneity in this trend, it is strategically directed from a propaganda apparatus, sometimes imperceptible, that is reaching the highest political levels. An example is the Lancet Diet, semi-vegetarian, proposed by several scientists as the best for human health and that of the planet.
Major cities such as Los Angeles, Barcelona and Paris have committed to achieving The Lancet dietary guidelines as a goal by 2030.
And along the way things happen like the proposal of taxes on meat, or not offering it in schools or in public canteens. This has happened without democratic consultations, it happens almost without us noticing, and it happens very quickly.
The concrete thing is that ending cattle is a fanatical idea, it is not realistic and its effects would be destructive.
- Fernando Estellés, Polytechnic University of Valencia, Deputy Director of the Animal Science Department: “In recent years the censuses of extensive livestock are declining in Spain, and they are no longer enough to maintain the area of herbaceous pastures that we want to conserve. I am no longer talking about benefits but about the conservation of habitats of interest.”
These extremist ideas influence at the social, political and legislative levels. Their function is to be the pioneers in demanding certain things that may seem nonsense, and many times they are, but the message is penetrating and the effect is multiplier. It’s the way we change the world.
- Javier López, Director of Provacuno, Interprofesional De La Carne De Vacuno: “It is clear that the impact of methane that animals and fuels are producing is not exactly the same.”
Fossil methane and methane generated by livestock are not the same thing. We’re comparing pigs to bicycles: something that’s going to take thousands of years to get back to its origin, with something that’s recycled quickly.
The methane produced by ruminants lasts in the atmosphere for about 10 years. It generates a heating, but it degrades, it is absorbed in photosynthesis by plants that will then be food for those same animals, in a short-term biogenic cycle.
Fossil methane is a form of carbon that we extract from inside the earth, which has been in there for millions of years and we are releasing it into the atmosphere, where it will last 10,000 years, warming continuously, without degrading.
With arguments of Animal Welfare, sustainability, and that we are the destroyers of the planet, we are giving way to a model of “few hands”, very powerful investment groups that are the ones that finance these trends, which as we said, have nothing spontaneous.
What would be the demographic consequence of the extinction of livestock? If 115,000 families who live directly from livestock are left without their source of income, they will leave the rural environment, accelerating the demographic regression of the regions most dependent on this activity.
In Spain, 3/4 of the farms are concentrated in Galicia, Castilla, Asturias, Cantabria, Extremadura, and also within these autonomous units, livestock is concentrated in medium and high mountain regions. In Galicia, it would directly mean the extinction of agricultural economic activity in 2 thirds of the territory.
If we take away the livestock from the peoples of Spain, a thousand of them would be abandoned.
To lose the peoples is to forget a certain part of our history, of our tradition. Cattle raising is an ancestral custom, the consumption of meat and milk is as much a part of our culture as the language we speak. Just like a tree we need branches, we need to grow, and we need roots that feed on their origin. It is good to have a memory, to be able to project it and unite it to the present and the future.
- Sonia Roig, Complutense University of Madrid, President of the Spanish Society for the Study of Pastures: “It is very important to realize the enormous dependence we have on our rural territory: our food, the maintenance of the good state of the territory that means having quality air, quality water, that management of the territory is what feeds us, it gives us to drink and breathe.”
Rurality is also associated with diversity at all levels, of species, of formations, of ecosystems, which we do not know what we lose when we lose genetics, when we lose a species or the adaptation of a race. it is a drama for the whole planet and for all of us as a species.
- Edelmiro López, University of Santiago de Compostela, Department of Applied Economics: “Forest management, cleaning or silvicultural treatment of one hectare is between € 3000 and € 4000. The problem is that this economic investment over the years becomes totally unsustainable.”
If grazing ceases, orderly and sustainable, the natural succession of vegetation, the herbaceous spaces will be more and more shrub pastures, more scrub and then more woody formations, and then forest Ah, but this sounds great! And it’s true. What happens is that it has several problems that we do not or we see with the naked eye such as forest fires.
- Edgar Juan, Forest Firefighter SGISE: “We have a continuous area, and that we must begin to divide to be able to attack these forest fires, and we can only do this with agricultural treatments, and through the introduction of extensive livestock that maintains this sectorization.”
After 15 years without extensive livestock, we would have abandoned forests with an igneous load that would cause fires outside our capacity to extinguish.
The benefits of having cows grazing in mountains and fields seem clear, but these cows also spend part of their lives feeding on farms, and how much does this feed cost the planet?
On a cow’s menu, about 80% are things that we cannot digest, never compete with human food: straw, fodder, pastures, by-products.
The earth is going to keep up, the planet and nature is going to continue with or are us, the problem is what we are going to do to live comfortably on this planet, not what is going to happen with the planet Hello!
- María Diago, Director of Sustainable Guide, Biologist and Environmental Expert: “Food fads in sustainability have a double face. They can be erroneous and can at least favor the industrial production of certain plant products, as industrial as an industrial livestock production.”
There are specific sustainability indicators for the gastronomic sector. There are those who refer to energy consumption, the consumption of raw materials as what type, where it comes from, which refer to water consumption.
Water, our most precious natural resource, so if I wanted someone to stop eating meat or drinking milk, accusing them of wiping out the planet’s freshwater reserves would be an excellent argument.
Cows, dairy as well as meat cows, consume a lot of water, hundreds of liters for each liter of milk or each kg of meat. But the different origins of that water must be considered.
We have 3 types of water to calculate a water footprint: green water, which is rainwater; blue water, which is extracted from wells or reservoirs, the careless use of which would jeopardize its availability; and then the gray water, which is the equivalent of water that I’m going to pollute with my activity.
The 90% of water that we use to produce a liter of milk or kg of meat, is green water, it is rainwater that is going to be there anyway. Its use has no real impact on the ecosystem.
Why have ultra-processed vegetables become our saviors?
Being vegan becomes a hallmark, and it’s supposed to be good for everyone, for people and their health, for the climate, for animals. Veganism addresses everything, there’s no way it won’t work, everything has to be true.
But when you start having health problems, a good time after practicing it, people would never relate it to their diet, which is good of all goodness. Then it’s time to stop being vegan, and these people have no idea what their place in the world is anymore. They gave everything, even their health, and nothing changed, and they don’t understand how with all that sacrifice that promised them salvation, they didn’t solve all those problems in the world.
And while their ethical framework is completely correct: justice, sustainability and compassion, which are ultimately the only ones that will lead us into the world we need, the way they put it into practice is completely wrong. They weren’t helping the animals, in fact, they were hurting them and the cost the planet is paying for their choices is just what they would have wanted to avoid.
A plant-based diet benefits no one, and farmers are under a lot of pressure and their lives are becoming increasingly difficult, because some companies encourage their extinction with a radical change in the food system.
These companies began to flourish after World War II, finding an opportunity in the manufacture of convenience foods. They created the concept, they grew, and at some point saturated their domestic market.
Then, they became multinationals, and also saturated the world market.
And then they had to innovate because their system is based on growing, they have to present growth to their shareholders because otherwise they will be out. They have to grow all the time.
There is a before and after the entry of investment funds into the food business.
Since the first major commodity crisis in 2007/8, investment funds have set their course towards the food business. Humanity grows and has to feed itself, it is a growing business. They saw that the money was in the mainly agricultural raw materials, which could be combined to give cheap food.
That’s how they innovated. They took the agricultural raw material, processed it to add value to it, and sold it at a higher price. Health is the selling point.
- Lierre Keith, The Vegetarian Myth, American Writer & Food Activist: “The big beneficiaries are the big agricultural corporations, 6 companies that right now control the world’s food supply, which is really a monopoly.”
The debate is not meat or milk versus a bean or an almond, which is what is intended to trivialize: the debate is meat or natural milk, versus an ultra-processed vegetable, composed of 15 or 20 ingredients, which are they?
There are about 17 patents to make these foods Why eat something that needs a patent? They are substances that have never existed in nature. It doesn’t make sense.
The discourse based on sustainability, on how bad livestock production is and the consumption of legitimate meat and milk, for health, for sustainability, for the environment, for animal welfare, is, in itself, a tool for these companies to catch more customers who choose them.
But when ultra-processed industries monopolize the world’s food supply, we will no longer be able to choose. We will not be healthier, nor will the animals be better, nor will the planet be saved.
The fantasy that we can replace animal foods such as meat or milk with plant imitations, and that it is a simple process, is a reductionist idea.
If we look at the list of ingredients of imitation products, we see that they are very long, full of additives and texturizers, and most importantly, although they call them “of vegetable origin”, we will not find vegetables in their composition, but extracts. Nothing remotely like a vegetable.
Processing milk and meat substitutes consumes a lot of energy, and carries a series of implications that place them far from being an environmentally friendly alternative to the environment and animals, with respect to livestock production.
Of the top 10 largest fortunes in the world, at least 4 are investing in ultra-processed vegetables or in milk and laboratory meat These large groups of investors are not NGOs, they are companies that seek to make money. And making honest money, that’s fine. In Argentina we have the meme of a rock artist who told someone on a TV show “look for an honest job”, I would use in this case the words of the great Pappo Norberto Napolitano: LOOK FOR AN HONEST BUSINESS.
Fake bacon, fake meatballs and sausages, fake burgers, “milks” of things that don’t even mute and strange vegan cheeses. Because our ancestral instinct is carnivorous, and we are denying our bodies what they KNOW they need. We are deceiving ourselves, pleasing big corporations.
There are too many nutrients that we can only find in foods of animal origin. There are too many supplements that are necessary and we should take instead of just feeding ourselves: Omega3, Vitamin D, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Iron, and we would never feel quite right, like when we eat a portion of real meat or drink a delicious glass of legitimate cow’s milk, or cheese, or butter… There is nothing like that!
- Frederic Leroy, Vrije Universiteit Brussels, Department of Bioengineering Sciences: “What we must first do to stop global warming is to let ruminants and grasses do their job.”
The first thing we should do to stop global warming is to let ruminants and grasses do their job, because what they really do well is conserve the soil. We don’t need great Samaritans or vacuum cleaners to swallow carbon from the atmosphere, we need nature to let do what it does best: let the world come back to life, and it will.
Valeria Guzman Hamann